10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Match day has arrived and again conditions are perfect with the sun shining on an otherwise chilly morning. The Irish support has grown with the arrival last night of IRFU President Roy Loughead and his wife Joan who were being looked after by incoming New Zealand President, the former All Black, Tane Norton. They came out on the same flight as Stan Waldron, Mossie and Noreen Kelly - parents of John Kelly - and one Mr. A.J.P. Ward, former international out-half and now rugby correspondent with The Irish Independent.
Welcome callers to the hotel this morning were Ray and Hazel Southam who dropped in to wish the players and management well. Another familiar face around the hotel is Dara McMahon from Skerries, who is out here for the entire tour, a trip he had started to plan two years ago.
The players had a fairly relaxed morning with line-out practice conducted just across the road in the hotel car park, the calls of 'Edinburgh', 'Bridgend', 'Dublin' and Donegal reminding the watching McMahon of his Towns Cup winning days with Skerries when the calls they used were "the names of pubs the lads drank in, in the town, or streets where they lived."
The plan for the rest of the day is for your editor to hook up with Mr Ward for a lunchtime coffee in the Hairy Lemon on Stafford Street where we are joined by Press Officer John Redmond and Charles Roebuck, a man who runs a computer shop called PC Doctor and who has been invaluable in helping members of the Irish party, players and management, get hooked up to the Internet.
The players will sit down to lunch (vegetable soup, meat-balls, baked beans, sandwiches) at 1.30pm, assemble in the team meeting room at 3.30 and then depart for the stadium to arrive for 3.50pm ahead of the 5.05pm kick-off.
There is a curtain raiser, Timaru Boys High v Southland Boys. After the game there will be a function in a marquee that has been erected on the pitch the Irish used for training and there the entertainment will include a live Irish band plus big screens to show the All Black v Italy game from Hamilton.